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#11

in 2011 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $9,740 - $13,770
Original MSRP: $18,999 - $27,149
MPG: 21 City / 31 Hwy
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2011 Suzuki Kizashi Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Suzuki Kizashi carries just a four-cylinder engine -- hardly the stuff of sports car dreams. Yet many reviewers say it is the sportiest four-door car available for an affordable price. The key to its athleticism is its extraordinary suspension. Sprung like a sports sedan, the Kizashi offers a very firm ride, with extremely responsive steering. 

Reviewers aren’t universally impressed with the two available transmissions. Most recommend the six-speed manual, saying that the continuously variable transmission doesn’t offer drivers the same level of control. All-wheel drive is offered only with the CVT. Still, you can get paddle shifters with the CVT.

  • “The Kizashi drives better than basically everything in its class.” -- Autoblog
  • “Of course, you'll never find a true sport sedan in the form of a front-wheel-drive midsize car with a $25K price tag, but the Kizashi offers a level of entertainment that has been refined out of most other midsize sedans.” -- Edmunds
  • "With a clever blend of smooth ride and competent handling, the Kizashi can be fun on roads that twist and turn, yet it doesn't beat up its occupants on broken surfaces. It has plenty of power and offers all-wheel drive.” -- New York Times
  • "While the front-wheel-drive Sport we drove didn't feel like a BMW M3, it did corner more stably than the other cars we drove that afternoon, including a Toyota Camry, a Ford Fusion and a Mazda 6." – AutoWeek
  • "The Kizashi's 2.4-liter, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder engine delivers a lot of oomph (185 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque) for the money. But its unloaded swagger becomes more of a wiggle-waggle with each new passenger and piece of luggage coming aboard." – Washington Post

Acceleration and Power

Every Kizashi comes with the same 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. This engine is rated for 185 horsepower with the standard six-speed manual transmission or 180 horsepower with the optional CVT. However, virtually every other affordable midsize car offers the option of a more powerful engine. Reviewers say the Kizashi gets up to speed quickly for a four-cylinder, but the performance emphasis is clearly on cornering rather than speed.

Two transmissions are available, and reviewers aren’t crazy about either one. A six-speed manual has its fans, since it offers a light clutch, and the control many driving enthusiasts seek. But, for a stick in a performance-oriented car, it has fairly long throws, which is enough to disappoint some reviewers. 

The other option is a continuously variable transmission, which is a gearless transmission that operates like an automatic. The CVT is more fuel-efficient than the manual, and reviewers say that it responds quickly for a CVT -- but a manual-equipped Kizashi will still outrun it in a straight line.

The EPA rates the standard, CVT-equipped Kizashi at 23 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway. Choose AWD and it will get 22/29.

  • "The Kizashi will reach 60 mph from a standstill in 7.5 seconds before its Akebono brakes haul it down. That's not remarkably quick, but straight lines aren't what the Kizashi does best.” -- Autoblog
  • “The Kizashi's six-speed manual transmission, which we highly recommend, shifts lightly and smoothly and is enjoyable to operate. The other transmission option is a paddleshifted continuously variable automatic, which is generally very sure of itself and is quick to respond to throttle inputs.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • “With the CVT, acceleration from a stop is leisurely, but is just short of lively once underway. Passing power is competitive with 4-cylinder rivals. Using the CVT's steering-wheel shift paddles improves transmission response.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "We suggest you stick with the stick unless you insist on all-wheel drive-which can be engaged or disengaged by a dash-mounted button-as it can only be had with the CVT." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Sveral reviewers speculate that Suzuki’s engineers skimped on engine choices with the Kizashi because they poured all of their available time and money into its remarkable handling. Autoblog notes, “You could step into the springs Suzuki has perched under the front of the Kizashi. They are seriously massive.”

Reviewers love the result of all that suspension work, sometimes comparing the Kizashi’s handling to that of far more expensive cars. Optional all-wheel drive, a rarity at this price point, adds extra security to CVT-equipped Kizashis.

  • "The engine is less refined than most rival 4-cylinder mills under full-throttle acceleration; it is quiet while cruising." -- Consumer Guide
  • "There's plenty of grip, the chassis is well balanced and the steering is well-weighted if a tad numb. Ride quality is on the firm side, but drivers used to European cars or sportier Japanese entries should find it suitably comfortable." -- Edmunds
  • "The Sport GTS transitions a mite better, and you can steer the tail more with lift-throttle around the skidpad, where both old and new versions can be jockeyed between under- and oversteer with only minor throttle input; a wonderful trait for a front-driver." – Road and Track
  • "The Kizashi exhibited better control of the understeer inherent in that class and there was little lift-throttle oversteer." -- AutoWeek

Next Steps: 2011 Suzuki Kizashi

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